Hello everyone, my name is Alex and I am so excited to be bringing you a new biweekly column with the Penticton Western on urban agriculture relevant to our Okanagan area. I grew up here in Penticton, and have an honours degree in Geography. I have been growing fruit and vegetables in my own garden only for a few years but it has brought me such joy and is so easy that I wanted to share this with more of my community. Each month I will interview a gardener in the Okanagan who also wants to share their tips and garden ideas with you. As well, there will be useful articles like how to make a self-catering pot, best veggies to grow in the Okanagan, and how to grow greens inside.
Urban agriculture is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; agricultural activities like growing fruits and vegetables, raising livestock, and food processing that occur within an urban environment. A lot of long time Penticton residents might not think of Penticton as an urban environment but our little city is densifying more every year. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But when development occurs without proper planning for the future, then we are at risk of becoming a concrete island between two lakes.
In most areas of the Okanagan we are lucky enough to have very good soil. This likely due to the historical flooding that used to occur, especially here in Penticton. The Okanagan has a continental climate moderated by Okanagan Lake, meaning hot summers, cold winters, and minimal rainfall. We are in a rain shadow caused by the Cascade and Coast Mountains, and on average get just over a ruler’s length of precipitation a year! While it is arid here, it means we are fortunate to get enough heat and light in the summer to grow things like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Whether you live in a house, townhouse, or tiny apartment, if you have the desire to grow your own food it is possible! And likely easier than you think.
Still on the fence? Does it sounds like too much effort? Maybe this will entice you… Urban agriculture is a way to reduce our reliance on foreign countries and bring food production back to our communities. This also greatly minimizes our transportation emissions and costs. It is a way to not just reduce the urban heat island effect, but also utilize it. The urban heat island effect occurs due to concrete absorbing and radiating heat back out, making cities 5-10 degrees hotter than rural areas. This additional heat lengthens the growing season to increase harvests, and the plants help moderate the city temperatures. It’s a way for us to feed cities that are predicted to swell in population but not land size, a predicament specific to Penticton. Growing your own food means you know exactly what chemicals it may have come into contact with, and how and where it was grown. Really the best reason, which you will only discover once you start, is how good it tastes! When I finally had local garlic, it was incomparable to the stuff from the store. I hope you join me to learn more so you can get out there and start playing in the dirt!